Chilton County’s FocusFirst screenings another success

Published 5:15 pm Monday, September 19, 2011

FocusFirst, an Impact Alabama student service initiative, conducted free vision screenings in Chilton County on Monday, Sept. 19.

The screenings took place at E.M. Henry Head Start in Clanton, Jemison Head Start in Jemison and Maplesville Head Start in Maplesville at 9 a.m.

Impact Alabama partners with Sight Savers America, a non-profit organization that provides free follow-up care for children who fail the screenings.

Lane Gilmore, Impact Alabama regional coordinator, said 34,000 children are screened through FocusFirst in one year.

“Approximately 11.5 percent of those kids are diagnosed with vision problems,” Gilmore said.

Founder and President Stephen Black started Impact in 2004. It is a student learning service initiative that takes undergraduate and graduate students and puts them to work in miscellaneous fields in the community, Gilmore said.

Impact is comprised of the following four initiatives: FocusFirst, SpeakFirst, SaveFirst and CollegeFirst.

“Those four initiatives are the primary things we do,” Gilmore said. “FocusFirst was the original initiative.”

FocusFirst currently serves children ages 6 months to 5 years in every county in Alabama.

“Six months to 5 years is typically the limit as far as people we can test,” Gilmore said. “They don’t have to know how to read to do the vision testing.”

On the other hand, poor vision and lack of early diagnosis and treatment could lead to children having trouble learning to read, as well as long-term vision damage or loss.

FocusFirst uses technologically advanced photo optic scan cameras for screenings.

“With every passing year, we expand,” Gilmore said. “We do all Head Starts in the state, and we also do daycares and child development centers.”

In the last seven years, more than 2,100 college students in Alabama have screened more than 123,000 children in all 67 counties in the state.

Gilmore said she and Helen Barnes screened 62 children at Notasulga Head Start today.

“We always love Head Start screenings, but this one was truly one of the best we have ever been to,” Gilmore said. “The staff was very helpful and the kids were great!”

For more information, contact Lane Gilmore at (205) 213-0492 or visit